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By Daniel Lammin
6th February 2013

In the beginning, before toys could talk and monsters made us laugh instead of scaring us, the fledgling Pixar Animation Studios made its name with a number of award-winning and groundbreaking short animated films. Thankfully, even after moving into feature films, the studio has continued to create shorts, often testing out new artists and new technology at the same time. Back in the early days of Blu-ray, they released a disc of these early films, demonstrating the evolution of their craft and narrative philosophy. With more shorts having been released since, we now have the second volume of their continuing collection.

Unlike the first set, all of these can be found individually on previous Pixar film releases, so anyone collecting their films will probably already have them. Still, there’s something wonderful about having them assembled together. The films can be divided in two distinct categories: the first, shorts featuring characters from their feature films, such as the wonderful Toy Story Toons, and the really charming ‘Your Friend The Rat’, a history of the Rat presented by Remy and Emile from ‘Ratatouille’. It’s always nice to see these familiar faces, and while these shorts are rarely groundbreaking, they have definite charm. However, the real highlights are the original shorts. There are less of them here than on the original set, but they represent the creative ingenuity of the studio. In particular, you have three miniature masterpieces in ‘Presto’, a fead between a magician and his rabbit, ‘Night & Day’, a simple fable combining computer and hand-drawn animation, and ‘La Luna’, where three generations of men work their trade on the lunar surface. The economy of character and storytelling is absolutely breathtaking, and these shorts are able to affect and inspire more in a few minutes than most films can in hours. While their recent features have oddly stuck to convention, it’s clear that the next generation of artists emerging at Pixar have something new and revolutionary to offer.

As expected from material created in a digital medium, the video of all the shorts is flawless, preserving the original cinematic rations of each film. The great advantage of computer animation for Blu-ray is the ease with which it can transferred to the format, and the colours and textures and rendered perfectly here. The same can be said for the sound, mostly consisting of beautiful scoring and sound effects. The only pity is that the shorts created for 3D aren’t presented with that option. ‘Night & Day’, in particular, is as groundbreaking for its use of 3D as it is of animation.

There’s something wonderful about having these short films assembled together.

Each short includes an audio commentary from its director, covering the development and execution of the film in the short time provided. Also included are a number of excellent student films from the major Pixar directors John Lasseter, Pete Doctor and Andrew Stanton. With their feature work, each artist has developed a very particular narrative style, and these shorts show there artists developing these ideas at the start of their careers. Each is introduced by its director, who gives the film context. While not as sophisticated as the Pixar shorts, they’re still a fascinating and charming set of films, and show how the final Pixar style was developed.

'Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 2' is available from 6th February 2013.

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